Wheat-Colored, Dry, Summer Grasses

I have two more hours to chant until I finish my current daimoku campaign. I’m very excited about this, and I’m also very excited about the writing conference I’m attending this Saturday. I still need to revise my pitch, my synopsis and a few other things and then I’ll be good to go! John’s brother was visiting this weekend, so we met for dinner at his parents’ house in Gilroy. It was good to see John’s brother and I was able to share with him a little bit about my Buddhist practice. I really believe that this Buddhism is so incredible, but often I’m not able to communicate this very well with other people. I need to work on this!

The voices continue to diminish slowly but surely. I hear almost no yelling anymore, and only occasional whisperings here and there. Not much as to deal with as before. What a big difference! As much as I tried, I never got used to the screaming, yelling and the threatening whispers in my ear. It isn’t something anyone could ever get used to. Still, the more the voices continue to diminish in my life, the more I am able to appreciate the quiet and the stillness that has been gone from my life for so many years. It’s such an incredible calmness that even this afternoon, staring at the reeds and grasses blowing in the wind along the bay brought back memories of when I was younger. I was reminded of a weekend camping/waterskiing trip along the Sacramento Delta with my parents and my two older brothers. We were sitting on the wheat-colored, dry summer grass eating sandwiches and cheese on top of a picnic quilt that my mom had laid out for us to sit on. I stared off silently into the distance, watching the long grasses swaying back and forth in the summer sun. I wondered what it would be like to live off the land, out in the country-side somewhere, far away from civilization as I knew it. Maybe Wyoming? I always imagined living life differently from the way I grew up in the Sunnyvale suburbs. I’m not sure why. I think I took a disliking to other people at an early age, and often daydreamed about living life on my own, perhaps in the wilderness surrounded only by mountains and streams. This never happened. I spent my childhood in Sunnyvale, left to join the Peace Corps and attended graduate school on the East Coast. Eventually I came back, and am now reminded of memories of when I was young.

Getting Ready to Start My 3rd Million Daimoku Campaign

I’m really looking forward to the Women’s National Book Association Pitch-o-Rama next Saturday. I wrote a brief memoir pitch for a different writing conference last September, so I’d like to revise it as well as improve my synopsis. I’m making progress daily, but still struggle with occasional negativity and anger. I tend to justify my anger at other people and when I do this, it can spiral out of control until I remain angry for hours during the day. I need to focus more on stopping the train of angry thinking, and keep myself from finding reasons to justify why I believe I should be angry. Sometimes it’s tough to stay positive! I’m almost finished with my one million daimoku (chanting) campaign. I started my second million daimoku campaign a year and a half ago with a few specific goals in mind. Now, I’ve got four hours left to chant. Then it will be time for me to make a new set of goals and start my third million daimoku campaign. The first one I finished in late November of 2011.

For SGI Buddhists, million daimoku campaigns are perfect for big goals or challenges that we are facing. For me, I have been challenging the voices, my fear, and my social anxiety with my daimoku campaign. I have been challenging the power the voices have over me and they influence they have had in my life. I am happy to state that I have grown much stronger and much happier over the past two years or so since I started my first million daimoku campaign. I’ve finished the first draft of my memoir manuscript and I’m confident I will achieve success as a writer, my husband and I bought our first house together and we continue to work on improving our marriage, I continue to write for my blog and for CureTalk, I’ve reached out to more of my extended family. Best of all, I haven’t given up!

How Can We Achieve Our Highest Potential?

One of the biggest myths about the human brain is that we only use 10 percent of its capacity. According to scientists, this is a myth that has been promoted over the years by the media and advertisers. If we believe that we really do only use 10 percent of our brain’s capacity, it stands to reason that we could achieve much more throughout the course of our lives if we learned how to access the other 90 percent. Unfortunately, the 10 percent theory really is just a myth, according to Ed Chudler in his article, Myths About the Brain: 10 percent and Counting. There is no undiscovered secret that would allow us to access the unused portions of our brains and boost our potential.

How then can we achieve our highest potential? How can we become greater educators, greater musicians, better readers, skilled engineers, excellent athletes, or achieve whatever dreams and goals we have set for ourselves? I believe that the key to living and achieving our highest potential is to not limit ourselves. So much of what we think, say and do is dictated by others. We constantly compare ourselves to other people, and we allow anything and everything outside ourselves to determine our own happiness. This is especially true for women. Many women define themselves only in relation to men, but women do not exist to please men. We need to believe that the sky is the limit, and that we are capable of whatever we set out to do. Often we are our own biggest critic.

Achieving our highest potential also means not allowing anyone else to dictate the terms of our existence. We aren’t selfish, yet exhibit both compassion and wisdom to lead people toward happiness. Millions of people search for happiness in the wrong place – outside themselves – often in their partners, their jobs, houses, cars, money, drugs, food, and the list goes on. Everyday I have great new ideas of activities I’d like to undertake, stories I want to write, projects I’d love to start, that I think I don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do in this lifetime. But I’ll never limit myself, and I”ll always aim to achieve my highest potential.

Ancient Wisdom Trail

Ancient Wisdom Trail

Spirituality, Religion & Mental Health

I follow PsychCentral on Twitter and I noticed a Tweet yesterday with a link to an article titled Spirituality and Mental Health. The title sparked my interest because I practice Buddhism and consider myself a spiritual person. I also rely considerably on my Buddhist practice to help support my mental health. I read the PsychCentral article which referenced another article on spirituality and mental health on a different blog, blog.christianitytoday.com, which in turn referenced yet another article on The Guardian website that finally led me to the original research study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. The Guardian article states:

People who are “spiritual but not religious” are more likely to suffer poor mental health, according to a study published in the British Journal of PsychiatryMichael King of University College London and his colleagues examined 7,400 interviews with folk in Britain, of whom 35% had a religious understanding of life, 19% a spiritual one and 46% neither a religious nor spiritual outlook. The analysis led to one clear conclusion. “People who have a spiritual understanding of life in the absence of a religious framework are vulnerable to mental disorder [dependence on drugs, abnormal eating attitudes, anxiety, phobias and neuroses].”

The PsychCentral article basically stated that people who have an [organized] religious support network are better able to cope with the variety of stressful situations that occur as part of our everyday lives. She used the example of a new mom who experiences post-partum depression. A woman with a strong social and/or family support network will have others to talk to, to trust, to confide in, and to share both happiness and sorrows. A woman going through a difficult time alone will have much more difficulty, both emotionally and mentally. This made sense to me. I also believe that a strong social, religious/spiritual and family support network is crucial to make it through life’s toughest challenges, whether they are mental or physical or both.

What didn’t make sense to me was that the study drew such a definitive distinction between “spiritual” and “religious”, seemingly with the understanding that people who identify as “spiritual” do not belong to any type of religious organization and thereby lack a support network. Many people who do not belong to religious organizations have strong social and familial support networks. I don’t believe that participation, or in this case non-participation in organized religion will make an individual more prone to mental illness. The last sentence from the above quote, “People who have a spiritual understanding of life in the absence of a religious framework are vulnerable to mental disorder” isn’t accurate. This seems to be merely a broad generalization about the causes of mental illness as well as what exactly constitutes a “spiritual understanding of life.”

I agree that organized religion is capable of providing a caring and supportive social network for its members. This is exactly what my own SGI Buddhist organization does for me (and so much more). It might be that well-established religious institutions are struggling with caring for their own members who are suffering from poor mental health. People who don’t belong to religious organizations aren’t any more vulnerable to mental disorders than anyone else, but people who have a strong social support network, religious or otherwise, will probably suffer less from mental illness and life’s myriad challenges.

 

My Memoir Manuscript Draft is Finished!

I finally finished editing my memoir manuscript yesterday. I now have a more or less complete first draft, but I know there’s still a lot of work to do. I sent out a few chapters to my immediate family members for feedback and I’m hoping that I’ll eventually be able to get feedback on the entire manuscript! A lot of work! In the meantime I’ve decided to focus on developing more depth to my memoir using my Life Constellation profile. Life Constellation is an interactive journalling website that will allow me to explore different areas of my life more in-depth than I have in my draft manuscript. Later I can incorporate what I’ve written on my profile into my memoir. I also have a DVD series on Creative Nonfiction that I’m going to finish watching. My mom gave me this series a few months ago to help me with my memoir, and it’s excellent for beginning writers. I’m also going to submit my manuscript to a few more agents and work on my pitch for an upcoming writer’s conference in San Francisco.

Natural Bridges

Natural Bridges

I took Savannah for a walk earlier today and it was warm! There is usually a breeze along the bay on most days, but today was hot and sunny! Even Savannah was hot. She kept laying down in the shade and eating grass, so I knew she was pretty warm. We came back, drank water, and relaxed in the cool indoors. I happy that I’m making progress with my memoir. Writing is much more difficult than it might seem. I have to keep at it, otherwise I’ll get out of the habit of writing daily and find other ways of distracting myself. I still struggle with anger and negativity. I try to stay positive and think positive thoughts. Especially when the weather is so beautiful! I really believe that I’m getting much better with my social and conversational skills. It takes practice, but the more I practice the better I get at talking to other people and making conversation. It never occurred to me that I could learn how to talk more easily to other people, especially strangers. Socializing really is a learned behavior, I just never knew that. I thought that’s just the way I was. I guess not!

Jen